Pulse+IT Blog

Adventures under the cone of silence

We love it when we are perusing what are normally quite boring or opaque documents about health IT and we suddenly stumble across a hidden gem, like the mention in a recent tender for ACT Health that there were file types in a clinical information system that “frankly seem made up”, or in a Hansard transcript of the Senate inquiry into the Medicare number breach in which the RACGP's Rob Hosking used the infamous cone of silence from TV show Get Smart as a metaphor for making security so tight that nothing works anymore.

We couldn't make that hearing last Friday but the transcript makes for interesting reading and Computerworld covered it nicely in two stories, including a report on Dr Hosking's Maxwell Smartism. Reading the Hansard, we must admit we were a bit bemused by one witness who seemed to be recommending that because the My Health Record and the Department of Human Service's HPOS system can't be made 150 per cent secure they should be decommissioned and we should all carry our health information around on a smart card like they do in Germany.

Opinion: Can the Digital Health Strategy achieve its insubstantial goals?

For a long time I have been concerned that the Australian Digital Health Agency (previously NEHTA) has been attempting to develop various solutions to a number of complex digital health problems which it does not seem to really understand, and as a consequence it is promoting an assortment of unsubstantiated ideas deficient in clarity, prudence and substance.

I read the recently released Digital Health Strategy and at the end of the 63 pages I asked myself: so what? What did I learn and expect to learn? How clear was I about where we were heading? About how and when we were going to get there? And would it make a difference?

HealthLink a new member of the clan

In a bit of late breaking news today we hear that Auckland-based secure messaging provider HealthLink has been acquired by Irish firm Clanwilliam Group, which is building itself a nice little portfolio of medical software vendors serving parts of the world with reasonably similar primary care sectors, namely Ireland, the UK, New Zealand and Australia.

The Irish government has for over 20 years supported both the IT and the pharmaceutical industries with seriously valuable tax breaks in order to attract investment into the country, but it also seems to have encouraged a thriving local industry that is producing some quality health IT firms that are now not only exporting technology but are setting up shop down our way.

Sunquest charts a path in the Sunshine State

US vendor Sunquest caused a few raised eyebrows this week when it was revealed that the Tucson firm had played a blinder and won the hotly contested tender for a new laboratory information system to replace Auslab for Pathology Queensland, the bill for which the Bananabenders estimate will cost a minimum of $50 million but is budgeted for up to the century mark.

While an established name in global LIS circles, from what we gather Sunquest has not had an installation in Australia before. The win follows the entry of fellow US firm SCC Soft Computer into the local market last year, with its $42 million contract to replace the Ultra system used by Pathwest in WA.

What lies between the balance sheets

It's reporting season for publicly listed companies in Australia and perusing the balance sheets always throws up some interesting stuff, like Telstra Health's $77 million write-down of goodwill on a couple of it assets and Primary Health Care's huge $587 million impairment from its medical centre business.

We don't often follow the fortunes of private hospital operator Healthscope but we had a look this week and discovered that just as it has exited the Australian pathology market, it has now removed itself from medical centres too, selling its 43 standalone practices to Singaporean outfit Fullerton Health. It still has its toe in the New Zealand pathology market through its ownership of Southern Community Laboratories though, with its new Wellington lab fully automated and digitised and pretty close to 100 per cent of pathology orders and results through this lab now electronic.

There's a bad app for that

By far the most popular story on Pulse+IT this week was our report on a presentation by Semantic Consulting's Tim Blake at HIC last month on the guide to health apps he and his team have developed for Primary Health Tasmania, the TasVegas PHN.

Mr Blake and his team have put thousands of hours of work into curating the guide, which includes detail and reviews on a couple of hundred apps. While a searchable directory of health apps is a great resource, it can also be used by GPs to prescribe useful apps for patients, with the 'script' emailed with a single click and a note added to the medical record.

Paper, paper everywhere, still swimming in the ink

It was no surprise that the most popular story this week on Pulse+IT was our report on a workshop on secure messaging held at the HIC conference in Brisbane, where it was revealed that the National Authentication Service for Health (NASH) needed a major overhaul if it was ever going to be of any use to anyone.

Developing a useable authentication system has been a bottomless pit from which little has emerged in the decade or so that we've been covering it. As we wrote back in 2010, NASH has been an integral part of the eHealth agenda since NEHTA's inception in 2005, but where once outsourcing sounded good it quickly turned terminal, and even though the Department of Human Services came to the rescue in the PCEHR days, NASH has caused trouble ever since.

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